Do you want to obtain an edge over your swimming competitors and rivals, while becoming a better and faster swimmer? If so, the off-season provides you with an excellent opportunity to do just that.
Many competitive swimmers will have a few weeks or even months between the end of their last championship meet and the start of the next competition swim season. This is a great time to develop your strengths and weaknesses, as well as fine-tune certain aspects of your swimming.
In short- during the off-season swimmers should focus on preparing for the upcoming swim season. Swimmers should ideally still go to the pool to train, but can also experiment with other training methods, such as weight lifting or running. Swimmers should also focus on improving flexibility and mobility.
The problem, however- many swimmers are unsure of what they should do during this period of time. Should they take a break, keep swimming hard or just focus more on dry-land strength and power development?
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about off-season swim training. Additionally, I will provide you with some good suggestions and tips to improve your swimming and overall athleticism so that you can flourish when it’s time to swim fast again. We will also cover some of the things you should avoid during the off-season.
7 Tips and suggestions for successful off-season swimming preparation.
Here is a quick list of things swimmers should do in the off-season-
- Take a break and recover to avoid burnout.
- Maintain your swimming fitness and technique.
- Do cross-training or go to the gym to improve athleticism
- Fix and prevent swimming injuries.
- Work on improving your strengths and weaknesses.
- Stretch to become a more flexible and mobile swimmer.
- Eat healthy for better swimming performance.
1. Allow yourself to recover physically and mentally- take a break.
The swimming season is a tough time of hard training sessions and workouts while trying to balance that with doing well at school or work and getting enough sleep each night for proper recovery.
Additionally, you have to deal with the stresses of getting your qualifying times for important meets and doing well at those meets, as well as taking on all of the other challenges life throws at you.
All of this can be very taxing on your mind and body and it can result in burnout or injuries. Taking a break is a good idea since it will give your mind and body some time to relax and recover. This will prepare you to attack the next swimming season with your full force and ultimately to do well.
Generally, I like to keep my breaks at about 7 days and no longer since you will start to lose fitness after that period. But some swimmers may prefer a bit of a longer break, which is also alright, it is just going to take a bit longer to get back into the swing of things. If you want a longer break, I would say try to keep it at about 2 weeks maximum.
2. Grease the groove- keep swimming as part of off-season training and preparation.
As swimmers, we all know how it feels to jump back into the pool after just a couple of days away from training- generally, it’s not very pleasant and we will usually struggle a bit to get our technique and “feel” for the water back.
One of the biggest mistakes swimmers make during the off-season is to completely avoid the pool. If you want to do well the next season you are going to have to keep training. You don’t necessarily have to do the hardest of workouts, but you should at least focus on maintaining what you have built up through the past seasons.
Focus on developing and maintaining your swimming fitness levels and work on improving your technique as this can help you to swim much faster in the long term.
3. Power and strength development- try cross-training or hit the gym in the off-season.
Hitting the gym and pumping some iron or experimenting with some new cross-training methods is always a great idea, especially in the off season when you have more time to try new things out and to learn proper technique for certain exercises in the gym.
Cross-training is a great way to give your swimming a boost, by developing some extra speed, strength, and power outside of the pool. You can experiment with lifting weights, different styles of dry-land workouts, cycling, and forgive me for saying this- but running could also be beneficial.
If you are interested in learning a bit more about cross-training then I recommend checking out my article on the best cross-training methods for swimmers, you can do so by clicking here.
3 Awesome off-season swimming dry-land workouts.
Dry-land Workout 1- core.
- Warmup: 5-10 minutes skipping with a jump rope.
- Mainset: 5 rounds- 10 legs raises, 30 situps, 20 russian twists, 10 V-ups, 45 seconds plank.
- Cooldown: 5-10 minutes of static stretching.
Dry-land Workout 2- explosiveness and power development.
- Warmup: dynamic stretching and 5-10 minutes of light jogging.
- Mainset: 3-5 Rounds- 10 box jumps, 10 medicine ball slams, 10 medicine ball over the head throws, 20 squat jumps, 8 clap push-ups, 5 explosive pull-ups.
- Cooldown: 5-10 minutes of static and dynamic stretching.
Dry-land workout 3- general strength.
- Warmup: dynamic stretching and foam rolling
- Exercise 1: 3 sets of 15-20 push-ups.
- Exercise 2: 4 sets of 8-15 pull-ups.
- Exercise 3: 4 sets of 10 to 15 dips.
- Exercise 4: 3 sets of 10 V-Ups.
- Exercise 5: 2-3 sets of 50 bodyweight squats.
- Exercise 6: 3 sets of 20 bodyweight lunges.
Want some more dry-land workouts? Check out my article about dry-land workouts without weights, by clicking here.
4. Adress the elephant in the room- rehab and injury prevention during the off-season.
If you have a nagging injury that has been bothering you all season and you haven’t quite had the time to check it out and try fixing it- now is the time to do so. Additionally, for those of us who are lucky enough to avoid painful shoulder injuries and so on- you should definitely also focus on making sure it stays that way.
There are tons of great prehab and rehab exercises out there that you can use to fix and avoid injuries in the upcoming swim season. If your injury is a bit more serious, I highly recommend making an appointment with a professional so that they can asses the situation and assist you in fixing it.
5. Improve your strengths and weaknesses during the off season.
All swimmers have their strong points and weak points and for the most part, we are completely aware of them. The problem is during the racing season, we are so focused on our main events and swimming as fast as possible in those events that a lot of the times we neglect our weaknesses since we see them as getting in our way.
Well, now that you have some extra time and you aren’t so worried about your main events, you can focus on developing those weak points. Weaknesses can include a bad start, slow turns, or a lack of technique in certain swimming strokes.
Focus on improving these weak points, while still working on your strengths and a lot of the times you will actually notice your swimming improving as a whole, not just those little things you have been focusing on.
6. Stretching- enhance flexibility and mobility to swim fast.
Some extra stretching and mobility work is never a bad idea. Stretching can help you to develop extra flexibility which may result in faster and better swimming performances as well as helping you to avoid injuries during training.
Try to get in some extra stretching on a daily basis, do both static and dynamic stretching since both can have their benefits. Personally, I think that about 20 minutes of stretching a day should be enough, but more can never hurt.
Compile a list of good stretches that will help you in becoming more flexible in your tight areas and then do them on a daily basis for maximum benefit.
7. Hit the kitchen- develop healthy eating patterns for the upcoming swimming season.
During the swimming season, it may be hard to change your diet due to a variety of reasons. Plus it usually isn’t a good idea to change it anyway since it might interfere with how you train and race.
But during the off-season, your obligations are less and you can definitely experiment with a few things- including your diet. Try to spend some time creating a list of healthy recipes and meals that you can cook throughout the week.
Try your best to forge new and healthier eating patterns as this will assist you in the upcoming swim season, by fueling your body with the right foods and nutrition to swim, train and race hard and fast.
It is highly recommended that you stay active in your swimming and training during the off-season. Sure, take a break if you feel like you need it but then make sure to come back strong and hard to prepare to swim fast in the following season.
Experiment with some new training techniques- whether it is in the pool, gym or in the kitchen, and make sure to get injuries sorted out as fast as possible. Try out some stretching and mobility work and generally just get your mind and body prepared for the upcoming swim season.
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